"Ally McBeal" star Courtney Thorne-Smith, who plays Georgia to Gil Bellows's Billy, is leaving the show at the end of the season to pursue straight comedy. The announcement comes less than a week after Bellows announced his departure from the show. Variety reports that when Thorne-Smith originally left "Melrose Place," she intended to do a half-hour sitcom, but instead got sidetracked into joining the cast of the hit Fox show. The dual departures are "creatively connected a little bit," the show's creator, David E. Kelley, told USA Today. "When (Gil) was going to leave, we knew the story lines for Courtney would probably diminish as well." Since "Ally" premiered in 1997, both actors have been working under one-year contracts, as has Peter MacNicol, who is expected to remain on the show. Other cast members have reportedly committed for three more years.
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